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Brokedown Palace


In remembrance of September 11, 2001.


The crumbling began with a whisper and grew to a growl as the first tower imploded. We assumed another wave of attacks had begun. Everyone scrambled and our staff scattered among thousands of other confused people as the wave of white smoke approached.

I'm not sure how my partner Jeff Berkowitz and I found each other, but we somehow connected and ran north along the river towards FDR Drive. I eyed the water on our right as a precaution - it was an option I wanted to keep open as we broke into a sprint.

We somehow flagged down a taxi and Jeff offered the driver $500 to take him out of the city while I tried to calm a woman in the back seat who was on the verge of hyperventilation. Between gasps, she told me that her boyfriend worked in an office high up in the World Trade Center. As I looked out the rear-view window and saw that one of the towers was already gone, I was at a loss for words. How could I ease her pain? What was happening to our country? Was it really happening at all?

I made my way to my home on 57th Street as lines formed at convenience stores in my neighborhood. People were hoarding bottled water, canned food, flashlights, and other necessities. I had none of that and I didn't care. I just wanted to find my family and my friends. I needed to understand what had happened and establish a framework of relativity, a place where I could begin to assess and digest my experience. The images on TV portrayed downtown Manhattan as a cloud of smoke, a war zone with body parts strewn like yesterday's laundry on the bedroom floor.

Friends and family began to gather at my apartment; five at first, then ten, then twenty. It was the other side of disaster, a dose of humanity in a sea of horror, a refuge of comfort in a maze of confusion. I found myself sitting at my desk, looking for a semblance of normalcy and a familiar setting.

Instinctively I wrote this column, which was published that evening on

The Day the World Changed
By Todd Harrison
09/11/2001 8:33 p.m. EDT

Numbness. Shock. Anger. Sadness.

As I sit here with family and friends, awaiting calls that may never come, I am drawn to my keyboard - and I'm not quite sure why.

Perhaps it's an attempt to somehow release the tremendous sadness that's locked inside me. Maybe I have hopes that sharing my grief will stop these images... stop the shaking.

It's ten hours after the fact, and I still feel the "boom" that shook my trading room.

I can still see the bodies falling from the first struck tower, one after another, as we gathered by the window in shock and confusion.

I can still hear the screams in my office "Oh my God! Oh my God!, Oh my God!" as the second plane hit ... and the image of that fireball rolling toward us will forever be etched in my mind.

I often write that "this too shall pass," but I will never be the same. Maybe that's a selfish thought, as tens of thousands of people won't have the opportunity to put this behind them.

Each time my phone rings and I hear the voice of a friend who I feared was lost, I break into tears.

Every time I get a call from someone who "just wanted to make sure" I'm still here, I'm reminded of how lucky I am to share relationships, memories, and a past.

I know many of you read my column to make money, but do yourself a favor and surround yourself with loved ones this evening.

Some of the wealthiest people I know don't have two dimes to rub together, and a few of them will never see their children, parents, or friends again.

More than anything else, I wish I'd kept my date to share a drink with my good friend Bill Meehan at Cantor Fitz.

I was tired, opting to grab a good night's sleep rather than down a couple of apple martinis with my sage friend.

I'm sitting by my phone, brother, waiting for your call.

Drinks are on me.

Picking Up the Pieces

People who shared a similar 9/11 experience dealt with their grief differently. Some left the business, opting to enjoy a life where bells didn't bookend their days. Some married and others divorced as the specter of death shifted their path in life. Still others fell into drug and alcohol addictions with hopes that self-medication would dull their pain.

We each did what we could; we all did what we had to.

My personal path was reflexive and subconscious, guided by motivations I didn't fully understand at the time. I spent one more year at the hedge fund before stepping down, shifting course, and founding Minyanville.

Most of my peers thought I was crazy to relinquish such a lucrative position and perhaps I was, but I wanted to create an existence where self-worth wasn't dictated by net worth and validation wasn't found in a bank account. Trading, for all its vices and virtues, offers little in the way of personal redemption or societal benefit.
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